New Vantage PSU-3X HD Digital Video Assist
Picture this scenario and scene. EXT. STUNT – MAGIC HOUR. The sun is rapidly setting in the West. You’re shooting with 4 ARRI Alexas, or Sony, or Canon, or RED cameras. The Director wants to view video from all 4 cameras simultaneously, and also be able to play back immediately. How do you do this?
Video assist is not the same thing as recording camera data. Video assist is similar for film or digital—to review takes, performance, and continuity as often as needed. Digital data is almost like camera negative, treated carefully, and viewed sparingly.
Vantage Film’s new PSU-3X records video streams from as many as four cameras at once, and is capable of playing back two separate takes while simultaneously displaying all four cameras on its high quality touch-screen. Simultaneous recording and playback saves time and money, whether you’re shooting with a single camera or multiple ones.
The PSU-3X is the latest iteration of Vantage Film’s compact, elegant, intuitive, and really rugged video assist unit. Most of us know Vantage Film for the Hawk anamorphic lenses they’ve been designing and building for the past 20 years. Their PSU video assist systems have been popular for more than a decade.
The PSU-3X comes in a small and lightweight case, about the size of a carry-on meter case, with a flip-up touch screen, custom software, connectors and power system. A dual GPU manages HD video input and output. Takes are displayed in HD quality on the unit’s touch-screen and on up to 4 external HD monitors. Also available: 2x and 1.3x anamorphic de-squeezing and 3D capable.
Battery operation lasts six hours, with hot-swap capability. AC power is also an option.
The PSU-3X is extremely simple to use. The PSU-3X’s instruction manual is only four pages long. Need we say more?
Because Vantage developed and designed the electronics and components specifically for video assist, cabling is simple, everything is compatible.
Vantage has extensive experience shipping camera equipment cases around the world. In the PSU-3X, all metal parts are machined, aircraft-grade aluminum or machined stainless steel, which makes the unit very durable and lightweight.
David Goldsmith, video assist operator
David Goldsmith is a top video assist professional, with 20 years experience working in the business. He recently finished working on the feature film Inherent Vice for Director Paul Thomas Anderson and Cinematographer Robert Elswit, ASC.
David spoke about his experience using Vantage’s PSU-3X Video Assist System.
“The PSU system offers portability and configuration possiblities that I haven’t seen on any other system out there. The PSU is the focal point of the entire production. With the PSU-3X, I’m able to do everything a Director, Cinematographer, Producer, VFX Supervisor, or Script Supervisor requests. It provides a crystal clear picture. I can record and play back, and, with the built-in editor, I can quickly edit shots without transferring to a different system or software. Video effects capabilities are abundant.
“The software itself is incredibly intuitive. Say you record a shot and play it back for the Script Supervisor. Out of the blue, the Visual Effects Supervisor pops in and says, ‘Do me a favor. Can you flip the image, blow it up 10%, and rotate it to the left?’ The answer is, ‘Yes.’ I can do that within seconds. That request is accomplished without interfering with the playback I’m doing for the Script Supervisor. The capability of multitasking is outrageously powerful.
“The PSU is compact and configurable. You can start your day on a sound stage in a controlled environment, do a shot, then load it into a truck and drive to the desert to do a high speed chase with the same system, going wirelessly. Then you can jump into a helicopter and do some aerial shots. And all the while, the production has access to everything, no matter where you are.
“Other devices I have used are dependent on a tower computer, or a laptop, with many external devices that have to work in conjunction: up-convertors, de-scalers, things made by various manufacturers. The PSU-3X is designed, manufactured, supported and programmed by one company. For me, Vantage has stood behind every nut and bolt and every board in the unit. If a software update is provided, you know that it’s compatible.
“What’s glorious about the PSU is that I have a system that looks like a piece of camera gear. It uses standardized camera connectors. It can run 6+ hours off the same kind of standard battery that powers the Alexa camera. I can pretty much be anywhere and not be dependent on electricians for power. It’s not running on a piece of equipment designed to be sitting in an office somewhere.
“Recently I worked with Paul Thomas Anderson. He used the PSU-3X Satellite all day long. I found it offered him freedom and on-set access like never before. We could communicate with each other using the iPad. We played back live images from as many as four cameras up to 100 feet away. The Satellite is a wireless handheld viewing device, in the palm of the Director’s hand, that also provides access to storyboards, script, emails and live video with no visible delay. The ability to download takes for later review creates ‘near-dailies’ way before they are created by the post house.
The PSU-3X Satellite is a handheld, iPad-based unit that receives images wirelessly from the PSU-3X.
The Vantage PSU-3X system has proven itself to be an indispensable tool, and my work has grown by leaps and bounds since I’ve been using it.”
Power supply for the PSU. 110-240V. EU or US version available.
Saves PSU takes onto standard DVDs.
Cal Pad – Adjusts touchscreen monitor settings such as brightness, contrast, backlight or color temperature.
iPhone charger – Charges an iPhone at the USB-socket of the PSU.
Rain Cover – Waterproof fabric cover to protect the PSU in wet conditions. Requires PSU sunshade.
Remote Control – Controls recording channels, player (play, pause, stop, skip), input switch, video-out sockets and action master.
Screen protector – Protects the PSU touchscreen during transport.
Sunshade – Built like a traditional mattebox eyebrow to reduce reflections. Folded up it´s a screen protector on location.
Data/update cable –
Connects a regular computer to the PSU to access files or update PSU software.
Battery Cable, 1.8 m
Remote Control Extention, 10 m
Location Case/ Cargo Case
Rugged transport case for PSU and accessories
Specially designed trolley for PSU, accessories, and batteries.
Download a PDF reprint of this article (from September 2013 IBC issue 55-56)